Two Ways to Structure Your Novel’s Opening

I get asked a lot of questions about novel openings: Where should I start my novel? Should the inciting incident be on the first page? How can I keep the reader engaged if the inciting incident doesn’t happen for several scenes? Can a later inciting incident be a good thing?


In this video, I use published novels to demonstrate different ways you can structure your novel’s opening.


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4 thoughts on “Two Ways to Structure Your Novel’s Opening

  1. Carlos Boza Layseca says:

    Thanks Ellen,

    The types of openings explanation is very useful for me. I been following your videos since long time ago and I really love them.

    I write in spanish, also my born language is spanish. Sadly, there are not many serious people that do what you do in my language. Just a few, but they do not go deepth in the variety of topics that you are covering.

    Thanks for that and happy weiting too

  2. Art Hutchinson says:

    Hi, Erin. Great video. Thanks for launching Novel Bootcamp! Question: How do you help writers think about which of (say) two incidents is truly THE inciting one? I.e., which to feature and how to intertwine them? E.g., incident #1 (in time) the main character receives news that radically alters his plans, and incident #2 (a result of incident #1), he enters into relationship that leads to irrevocable consequences.

  3. rmacwheeler says:

    I believe too much is made of the inciting incident.

    My opinion, the concept was developed to keep writers from starting with that horrible information dump.

    The key…there should never be so much blah blah that the reader is bored. I think Leonard’s rule number 10 replaces all of the other rules…leave out the stuff the reader skims over.

    So the better instruction…don’t keep interesting incidents for the peak interest points in the three acts. Yes, you need to let the reader relax between the roller coaster’s bigger thrills, but never bore the reader.

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